When people talk to me about my time in the Marine Corps I am often asked about boot camp, they want to know if it is as rough has Hollywood makes it out to be. Do the drill instructors yell at you and do they continually insult you and try to break you down. Well the truth is… yes they do, but if you think about why I am sure you will understand and it comes back to team work. Consider this, in the movie A Few Good Men,
“I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me“. –Col. Jessep
If you think about the full concept of this statement; you might ask; why doesn’t Col. Jessep fear the 4000 Cubans that are trained to kill him, why does he casually get up each morning and enjoy his breakfast.
Later the Col. refers to how people can rest easy sleeping at night. The mission of a drill instructor is to train young men and women to become Marines, and being a Marine means you are part of a team, a team that works together so well that when a Marine looks to his left and sees another Marine, that he or she knows they can sleep sound, their team mate will take care of them just as they would themselves. Granted working in the civilian world this may sound a little drastic, at least I hope it does. I hope you don’t low crawl to your desk to avoid the Customer Service department so the snipers don’t have a clear shot. However, I do think there are things that can be learned from how Marines are a team.
I could tell many stories about Marines not getting along with each other. Sometimes to the point of fist fighting, however when there is a mutual goal in sight, the accomplishment of that goal overrides any ill feelings towards fellow Marines. Having a Clear Goal and defined tasks to complete the goal help manage the relations that impact the team. When a team member is falling short, then his or her fellow Marines are responsible to bring them back up to where they need to be. It doesn’t matter if one team member is failing; the goal is still the most important thing. When we look at how we approach IT work, when we focus on what needs to be done, hopefully the team performs as a team and meets those expectations.
What happens when a lagging Marine cannot keep up in the hike, or can’t shoot as well as they should? How do they approach a team member who falls short? Marines are part of a family, a brotherhood and if a family member is in need of assistance then the family is responsible to help them. Maybe a brother needs help to move, or a grandparent has health issues, hopefully the surrounding family is there to help accomplish the goal. How do you handle this in the business world? The same way, team members will need help from time to time, it may be the need to cover an on-call shift, and it might be learning a new skill. As a member of the team it is your responsibility to help, remove obstacles that get in the way of completing a goal.
Most work as a Marine is accomplished in Squads. Each individual in the squad may have different areas where they consider the responsible party; there might be a Medic, a Communication expert, someone who is a mechanic for example. In business I can see how teams are created with the same methodology; a database team might have a replication expert, a tuning expert or someone who works well with Active Directory. Teams that work well together have shared goals/responsibilities as well as the individual ones. If we look at the example of a Marine squad the whole squad may have the mission to patrol an area, and each team member contributes with their skills and individual responsibilities. As a DBA Team we are no different, our goal is to support the company database, if the database slows down it is the responsibility of the team to get the performance issue corrected.
Have you taken a look at the team you work with? Do you know where the individual skills that each team member has contributes to the overall goal of the team? It may just be a good time to reflect on how your team works together and how you can help others on the team. Some tasks that individuals consider a waste of time, such as documentation are critical if someone else on the team needs to jump in and help accomplish the goal. If one aspect of the goal is forgotten or neglected, then the overall goal is at risk. Imagine if the Medic in the Marine Squad is unable to help with a medical issue because he is not in physical shape enough to keep up with the team, not only did the Squad lose the medic and is down a person, but if another team member gets hurt and requires medical attention, the squad is now short 2 members. The goal is now at risk.
Actions of team members and team leaders need to be focused on either helping individuals to do their part in reaching the overall goals or the overall goal itself, if team member cannot contribute to reaching the overall goal then quickly they become a liability.
How is your team work?